Authors: Erik Hamre
Tags: #Techno Thriller
She had met him at the Gold Coast Tech Awards. He had told her that he couldn’t be seen with her, but that they could meet up later in the evening. She had thought it sounded exciting. Maybe he had a wife or a girlfriend? She had almost felt like she was in a spy movie. He had been so careful, handed her a mobile phone she could reach him on later that night. And then he had called. Given her instructions. She had been waiting for him in a dark alley.
Everything had been so secret, so different, so exciting.
The excitement was long gone.
Nobody knew about him.
Nobody knew his name.
No one had even seen them together.
She attempted to sit up, but had to abandon that attempt also. She was so incredibly nauseated. What had he given her? She looked around. Something wasn’t right. She was being held captive by a man who abused her sexually. But the room wasn’t what you would expect from a kidnapper. She wasn’t in a dark dirty basement somewhere. She was in a metal cage. Fishnets were hanging from large beams crossing the ceiling, and she could hear the sound of a boat passing by outside the room. She attempted to scream, but she was too weak.
She looked down at the floor. It was covered with blood. Her blood.
She panicked and made a last attempt to get up on her feet. She only managed to get up on her knees.
When she felt stronger she looked around the cage again. Her whole body ached. It felt like she had just run a marathon. Nothing was further from the truth though. She had been lying, drugged and knocked out, on the floor for several days.
How many, she had no idea.
They hadn’t talked together for three years. Scott didn’t really remember what they had been arguing about, just that there had been alcohol involved, there had been money involved. Ugly things had been said about people they loved. Back in the old days Scott’s wife, Sashi, would have sorted things out. She would have made Scott swallow his pride, and make contact. Both Scott and his brother were too proud to do that on their own initiative. Or, proud wasn’t the correct word, stupid fit better. They were two stubborn idiots, he and his brother.
Scott secretly feared history would repeat itself. Their father had gotten into a fight with his own brothers a long time back, and they had gone to their graves without making up. Apparently they couldn’t remember what they had been fighting about either. When you haven’t spoken together for more than twenty years it’s bloody hard to make contact, Scott’s dad had said. What do you say? They had no clue why they had the falling out in the first place.
Scott keyed in the number, and lifted his mobile to his ear. The number wasn’t stored on the phone. He knew it by heart. One of only three numbers he had ever memorized.
“Hi Wayne, It’s me.”
The greeting was met with silence.
“Are you there, Wayne?”
“What do you want?” Was the short answer.
“Can we meet? I need your help.”
“What sort of trouble have you managed to get into now?” Wayne asked in a demeaning manner. If you gave him a chance, he would always be the big brother.
“I need your help, Wayne. Do you want to help me or not?” Scott asked. He was ready to hang up. There was only so much he could take from his brother.
“Ok, where do you want to meet?” Wayne asked, after a brief pause.
They agreed to meet at Cecil Pub in Southport. On neutral ground. Neither of them used to go there for drinks.
Wayne hadn’t changed much since they last saw each other, Scott thought. He was still a big bear, almost 1.96 metres, and sporting a chest that was threatening to burst out of his police uniform. Contrary to Scott, who had lost all his hair in his early twenties, Wayne had a full head of hair. The wild blond hair made him look younger than his kid brother, and it also helped that he, by nature, was a much happier person. But today there was no smile.
“You’re still hitting the gym I see,” Scott said, as they sat down at one of the tables.
“What can I help you with, Scott?” Wayne asked. He was not in a mood for small talk.
“A colleague of mine ended up in the hospital last night,”
“That reporter who was attacked down in Burleigh? I heard about it on the radio. Is he going to make it?”
“They’re not sure yet.”
“I’m sorry to hear that, Scott. But I don’t understand why you want to speak to me about it. I’m not going to work that case, even if he doesn’t make it.”
“I know,” Scott said. “But I could still need your help.”
Wayne studied his brother. It had been a long time since they saw each other last. “You think you may know who was responsible.”
Scott nodded. “A Russian by the name of Roman Bezhrev.”
“Roman,” Wayne whistled. “We’ve been trying to get something on that guy for years. He is a slippery fuck. Always one step ahead, or one step removed. Every time we think we have something on him, then either the witnesses disappear or they refuse to speak. People are surprisingly willing take a couple of years behind bars instead of ratting out Roman.”
“What is he involved in?” Scott asked.
“Are you asking as a reporter?”
“As your brother. I’m asking as your brother, Wayne. Nothing of what we discuss will ever leave this table. I want to find out who I’m dealing with, not write a cheap article for an employer that’s just waiting for an opportunity to sack me.”
Wayne laughed. “You haven’t changed, Scott. Always such a cynic.” He looked into Scott’s eyes. They had been best friends for as long as he could remember. Then their mum had died. The will had been written decades earlier, back when the vacation home in Byron and the house in Mermaid Waters had been worth similar amounts. Their mum could never have known, but when she died the house in Mermaid hadn’t appreciated that much, but the house in Byron was worth a fortune. Wayne hadn’t really cared that much, but his wife had encouraged him to contest the will. There was a lot of money at stake, life-changing money, she had said. She had convinced him to hire a lawyer, and that had been the beginning of the end. Nasty things had been said, and Wayne and his brother hadn’t spoken since. Wayne didn’t speak much with his wife either these days. They had been separated for six months, and she had taken the same approach in the divorce proceedings. Wayne couldn’t care less about the financial side of it, he never had. She could get whatever they owned, it wasn’t that much anyway. But when she had realised that she couldn’t hurt him by asking for money, she had changed her strategy. She had started refusing him time together with his son. He couldn’t accept that, and the only ones who would end up with anything in the divorce would be the lawyers. He was certain of that.
Maybe it had been for the best that Scott and he hadn’t been given half of the Byron home each. At least he now didn’t have to see it disappear out of the family.
“Ok, what do you want to know?” Wayne asked.
“I want to know everything you know about Roman Bezhrev. No details are unessential.”
Thanks for taking the time to have a chat,” the mayor said. He was sitting in a couch at the Hilton Hotel, in Surfers Paradise. He had just finished his speech for an organisation called Gold Coast Business Leaders. It was supposed to be a networking event for managing directors of the coast’s largest corporations and other prominent business owners. The reality was of course that none of the attendants had fallen into either of those two categories. Instead there had been a room full of business bankers, real estate agents and insurance salesmen. The people who ran businesses on the coast were far too busy to spend three hours in the middle of a work-week, listening to the mayor brag about his achievements. They were busy hustling deals and bidding for projects, so that they could afford to keep their staff on in the tough times they were facing. They were busy making money.
You never got a network at a networking function. You got a nice meal and some cheap wine, and a stack of useless business cards from life coaches and financial planners.
The mayor knew, he knew it all too well. But he still had to attend. It was important that he attended as many functions as possible. That he showed his face around the city, not just got stuck in his office. If he was going to be successful in convincing the Gold Coast that they could become a new Silicon Valley, then he needed to repeat that message as often as he could. He needed to be visible.
If there was one thing he had learnt when he was doing business, it was that it wasn’t necessarily the smartest or best ones who made it. It was the ones with the most stamina, the ones who never gave up no matter what challenges they faced, the ones who worked harder than everyone else.
Vesna Connor smiled. She hadn’t been hard to ask. She liked the new mayor. He got things done, and he listened to her. Really listened to her.
“No problem. You held a good presentation in there. It was clear and concise. I think the audience liked it.”
“It’s a brave vision for the Gold Coast,” the mayor started. “But it’s a necessary vision. If we don’t start making some drastic changes soon, then we risk ending up like the tourist cities of Spain and Greece.”
Vesna Connor nodded. “So, what did you want to speak to me about?”
“I heard about your reporter, Mark Moss. How is he?”
“We still don’t know for sure. He’s being held in an induced coma. We will know more in a few days.”
“My thoughts are with him and his family.”
“Thanks for that.”
“Do you know if there is any connection between what happened and the article he accidentally released?
“I can assure you, it’s got nothing to do with that article,” Vesna answered. “The police think it may be a mugging gone bad.”
The mayor nodded. “I understand. I’m very sorry that this happened to your reporter, but I think it is important that we are very clear in our message to the public; that we let them know that the two events are not related. We are now entering final talks with the Chinese. They are prepared to invest large sums on the coast. They see what we see, Vesna – a unique opportunity to create something great. A Silicon Valley for Asia.” The mayor’s car salesman smile was back.
“I can assure you, mayor; Mark’s article was a one-off accident. There will not be another one. There won’t be any articles speculating whether what happened to Mark had anything to do with his article, and there will be absolutely no articles giving fuel to his theory of a serial killer on the coast. Mark has a vivid imagination. Let’s leave it at that.”
“Thank you very much, Vesna. As always it has been a true pleasure speaking to you. You have a remarkable ability to see the bigger picture. Have you ever considered a political career?” The mayor flashed his white teeth.
Vesna blushed, she felt slightly embarrassed. She rose from the couch, preparing to leave.
“We are working on a new catchphrase for the Gold Coast. Something we can use to sell the coast to investors. What do you like best? Silicon Paradise, Silicon Beach or my own favourite, Silicon Lakes?”
“I don’t think we should try to become a cheap copy of an American city. Technology and the world have evolved since silicon chips were relevant for the computer industry. The new new is quantum computing. I think you should call it Quantum Beach. Something that sticks,” Vesna said, before turning around and leaving him.
The mayor just stood there, watching her.
God she was sexy, what he wouldn’t give to be young again, he thought as he wrote down Quantum Beach in his notepad.
He liked it.
Scott Davis was reviewing the information his brother had acquired for him. It was more than he could have wished for. Wayne had just run over to his office, and was now back at the Cecil Pub again. Roman Bezhrev had been under partial surveillance for the past few years. That didn’t mean the police were tapping his phone or had men constantly tailing him, but it meant that they knew about some of the things he was involved in, and it meant that they took a closer look whenever given the opportunity. Scott flipped through the pages of the report. It contained multiple black and white photographs of Roman in various situations. Scott’s brother had said that the pictures didn’t necessarily mean that it was Roman they had been watching. A few years back the Gold Coast Police had run an operation called
. The operation’s objective had been to document the Russian mob on the coast. They were suspected of being involved in everything from illegal gambling to murder. The operation had been a disaster. The police hadn’t been able to come up with a single conviction. The Russians were simply too smart, too slippery.
The chief of Police had taken the consequence and shut down the operation after eighteen months. Instead he had told the task force to focus on the bikie-gangs. They were a much easier target, always wearing their club colours, some even having tattooed
on their foreheads. They were like immature teenagers. They drove around on their noisy Harley Davidsons, always in a group of three or more. The police just had to listen out for them, and then pull them over for a quick inspection of their bum bags. That was where they usually stashed their cash, steroids and weapons. Dumb as batshit. The return on investment in fighting the bikies was far greater than investigating the Teflon-covered Russians. And as the Chief of Police was measured on results, he had canned
with an easy heart, and made
his highest priority.
Scott read Roman Bezhrev’s biography with interest. It confirmed much of what his Russian contacts had already told him. So much so, that Scott wondered whether they had been the secret source of the report. There was, however, also a fair bit of new information about Roman. He seemed to be travelling back to Moscow several times each year. He must still have business dealings or contacts over there, the report suggested. Scott Davis laughed. An entire page in the report was dedicated to documenting Roman’s various visits to psychologists in 2010. They all believed they were Al Capone, these gangsters. Roman had probably started to see a psychologist after having watched Tony Soprano do the same on TV. Roman owned five clubs – four nightclubs and the Crazy Kangaroo strip club. The police strongly suspected that Roman was using the nightclubs to distribute drugs on the coast, but it had proved impossible to establish a link between drug sales and Roman. If a dealer got caught, he never talked.